Beware the Technocratic Virus Spreading Through Our Parliaments

August 26, 2021 Updated: August 26, 2021

Commentary

The word “unprecedented” has been thrown around almost without a thought over the past 18 months.

But from lockdowns and border closures to the single largest peacetime budget line item—JobKeeper (A$90 billion)—was anything really unprecedented?

Or was everything about our COVID-19 experience, including the onset of unquestioned rule by experts, in fact, very much precedented?

For more than two decades, Australia has been run by a class of managerial elites who are largely unencumbered by the wishes of the Australian people as expressed at elections. Instead, they rule by technocratic mandate.

For example, since the Global Financial Crisis, experts at the Reserve Bank of Australia have decided to place the official cash rate as close to zero as possible to revive business investment and create full employment. But the flipside of this has meant Australians have experienced the longest-running structural decline in new private sector business investment relative to the size of the economy.

Australians have also been signed onto the Paris Agreement against their will, partly due to climate science expertise, despite expressing multiple times at elections their opposition.

In 2013, Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott won a resounding victory after promising to repeal the carbon tax, a tax implemented by the previous Labor government in direct contradiction of earlier election promises.

The “climate election” of 2019—which saw current Prime Minister Scott Morrison win government on the back of resource-centred electorates—provided further evidence for anyone still unsure of how Australians’ felt about emissions reductions and economic security.

Scott Morrison Claims Victory In 2019 Australian Federal Election
Prime Minister of Australia and leader of the Liberal Party Scott Morrison, flanked by his wife Jenny Morrison and daughters Lily Morrison and Abbey Morrison, delivers his victory speech at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth in Sydney, Australia, on May 18, 2019. (Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

Sadly, this preference is now being ignored by the prime minister, who has expressed a desire to implement a net-zero emissions target.

Australians, in some ways, are well-primed for the technocratic COVID era.

Our experience has given way to a desire from political leaders to remove “politics” from democracy and focus on expertise. However, this is nothing more than removing democracy from democracy.

Leader of the Greens and the federal member for the seat of Melbourne, Adam Bandt, revealed this was indeed his preference.

Speaking to The Age newspaper, he said he thought voters in the federal electorate of Higgins wanted “evidence-based policy,” and that the “catastrophic failure to listen to experts in the COVID crisis will be outstripped by the impacts of failing to listen to experts on climate change.”

Aside from the fact that Australia’s federal and state responses to COVID-19 were based entirely on “listening to the experts,” it raises the disturbing question: What is the point of having elections if the job of a parliamentarian is simply to implement “expert” advice?

Politicians in Australia are supposed to represent the views of their constituents.

Their job is to listen to many different stakeholders, weigh up their views, and make a decision that balances these insights with the best interests of those who live in their electorate.

But this is not how democracy functions in Australia anymore.

This was made abundantly clear in the federal parliament in August when the federal member for Dawson, George Christensen, was condemned by colleagues for a speech he made in the House of Representatives.

Christensen argued that “lockdowns don’t destroy the virus, but they do destroy people’s livelihoods and people’s lives.” There is ample evidence supporting this statement, including a recent Institute of Public Affairs’ (IPA) analysis outlining how lockdowns are devastating small businesses.

The IPA surveyed a three-week period from the commencement of lockdowns in Greater Sydney on June 26 and estimated that over 540,000 jobs were destroyed in small and medium-sized businesses across Australia. That’s equivalent to 25,000 per day.

Epoch Times Photo
A tram construction site is closed in the central business district of Parramatta in Sydney, Australia, on July 31, 2021. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

The experience across New South Wales, Victoria, and now New Zealand confirms what many have argued since the start of the pandemic; that it is impossible to eliminate the virus.

The federal government has now adopted this as its official position, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg arguing on Aug. 24 that “zero-COVID forever is unrealistic … it is a fallacy that you can eliminate COVID … You must learn to live with it.”

Yet, only two weeks prior to making this statement, Frydenberg and other government members voted to condemn Christensen for expressing a similar statement.

But the condemnation should never have occurred in the first place because it was Christensen’s job to air the views of his constituents. Moreover, parliamentarians should never be censured, condemned, or cancelled for expressing any views in parliament, which is why they are given parliamentary privilege.

Alarmingly, Federal Labor Senator Murray Watt even celebrated that tech behemoth Facebook decided to censure Christensen by removing a video of his speech.

Such is the state of Australian democracy in 2021 that an elected representative of the people can be condemned for expressing an opinion that goes against the supposed “expert” advice of the day, while their colleagues support the actions of foreign corporations silencing the views of millions of Australians.

The Great Southern Land has thrown vast resources at tackling COVID-19. Yet, we should be wary of another variant: the highly infectious technocratic virus that has infiltrated and undermined our democracy.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Cian Hussey
Cian Hussey
Contributor
Cian Hussey is a research associate at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne, Australia. His work focuses on the impacts of red tape on small business and the broader economy.